Countering Myths

From The Souls of Poor Folk: Auditing America 50 Years After The Poor People’s Campaign Challenged Racism, Poverty, The War Economy/Militarism and Our National Morality (April 2018).

The Souls of Poor Folk is an assessment of the conditions today and trends of the past 50 years in the United States. In 1967 and 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., alongside a multiracial coalition of grassroots leaders, religious leaders, and other public figures, began organizing with poor and marginalized communities across racial and geographic divides. Together, they aimed to confront the underlying structures that perpetuated misery in their midst. The move towards a Poor People’s Campaign was a challenge to the national morality: it was a movement to expose the injustice of the economic, political, and social systems in the U.S. during their time.


50 years later, The Souls of Poor Folk challenges us to take a look at how these conditions have changed since 1968. The stark findings draw from a wide variety of sources, including primary and secondary data as well as interviews with and testimonies by people who have been living through and responding to these changes on the ground. Their words offer deep insight for understanding these conditions and why these leaders feel compelled to call for a Poor People’s Campaign today.

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Conjuring Freedom

From Johari Jabir’s Conjuring Freedom: Music and Masculinity in the Civil War’s “Gospel Army” (2017).

Conjure is the black cultural practice of summoning spiritual power as an intentional means of transforming reality and involves a belief in an invisible magical power that can be used for healing and/or harm…

…For soldiers in black regiments during the Civil War, freedom was not simply found, it had to be forged. They found themselves forced to conjure freedom out of the materials made available to them as soldiers who had been slaves but were not yet citizens. In much the same way that the coping religion of the slaveocracy became transformed into the enabling religion of the slaves, the forms of soldiering and citizenship made available to former slaves that were designed to assimilate them into a masculinist hierarchical, exploitative, and racist society became something else in practice. These tools of domination became conjured into new forms of masculinity, solidarity, and social membership that promoted democratic and egalitarian change in society at large. Just as conjurers healed the slave body with a mixture of efficacious materials, newly free Africans in America attempted to heal the body politic and cure society’s ills through a tradition of organized protest with musical accompaniment that expressed alternate social visions of democracy.

An Eternal Quality

By Matthew Wheelock

At the beginning of March of 2020, just before the nation and the world began shutting down due to the pandemic, I was able to realize a long held desire to visit the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY. My wife and I had planned to visit the Abbey one afternoon and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University the next day. While our visits to each were brief, they made a lasting impression and especially informed the direction I saw myself going with creative projects. 

My spiritual and creative journeys seem to have been closely intertwined throughout my life. I had gone from chanting with the devotees of the Hare Krishna movement as a teenager to sitting silently with the Quakers, as well as entering into the deep quiet of the Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox church. I grew attached to certain images and themes in all of these paths: the two headed clay drum called a mridanga, used in the Krishna Bhatki tradition; the rhythms of the liturgical calendar, prayer ropes and the veneration of icons in the Orthodox church; from Quaker spirituality and later Centering Prayer, a love of silence in many forms. I began experimenting with drawing and touching on some of these themes, especially ideas of rhythm and repetition, back in 2015. Using a kind of spontaneous process, I connected lines on the page. Patterns emerged, but also nods to experience. More recently, I’ve committed to a series of ‘prayer rope’ drawings. While these pieces do have a visual beginning and end, I’ve also understood them to have an eternal quality. Seeing that kind of changed everything about how and what I do as an artist.

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In Spite Of

By Ric Hudgens, a sermon for North Suburban Mennonite Church in Libertyville, Illinois

During this quarantine, I’ve been listening to music from an earlier period of my life. I’ve been going through my music collection and replaying songs from a time that was not bound by seclusion, confinement, vulnerability. My daughter observed that it’s been good medicine for me.

Last night I was listening to an old album by the Canadian folk singer Bruce Cockburn with the line “got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.” This is an image of Easter “in spite of.”

When a martial artist wants to break a board, they envision punching through the board. The target is not the board itself but a spot just past the board. If you target the board you will pull your punch. To break the board, you have to punch through the board.

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NO MORE STATE-SPONSORED CRUCIFIXIONS IN THE NAME OF “SAFETY”

StephonA Holy Week Declaration From First Congregational Church of Oakland.
Issued on Good Friday, March 30, 2018. More relevant than ever. 

As followers of Jesus, we recognize:

That Lent is a season of spiritual searching and wilderness wandering when we recommit ourselves to following the way of Jesus Christ.  

That we face temptations that threaten to make us complicit with violence against our neighbors and ourselves, including the temptation to try to secure our own safety, survival, and comfort at the expense of other human beings and the planet. Continue reading “NO MORE STATE-SPONSORED CRUCIFIXIONS IN THE NAME OF “SAFETY””

Land Day

A Holy Week check-in from Ched Myers, movement elder, author and activist.

Holy Tuesday was Land Day in Israel/Palestine, always the occasion for protests and police violence (see here). Almost a decade ago, in 2012, I had the privilege of being on the streets with Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center staff Omar Haramy (pictured) during Land Day demonstrations in east Jerusalem. It was a poignant catechism in what our friends are up against (see my blog from that memorable day at https://chedmyers.org/…/blog-2012-03-31-friday-reality…/). Please keep Sabeel folks and all Palestinians organizing for justice especially in your prayers this week.

The Sandbox Revolution

Today, we celebrate the release of The Sandbox Revolution: Raising Kids for a Just World, a beautiful anthology of collective wisdom for those whose lives are wrapped up with children and who are hungering for a more just world. This collection is edited by our very own Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, co-founder of RadicalDiscipleship.net.

You can purchase the book through Broadleaf Books, IndieboundBarnes and Nobles, or Amazon. You can also find additional resources on the website including a Study Guide and a list of recommended children books. Please reach out to me if there is a way I can connect with your communities or help spread the word on the book. We are available for podcasts, writing, sermons, talks, etc.

It is a complex time to be a parent. Our climate is in crisis, and economic inequality is deepening. Racialized violence is spreading, and school shootings are escalating. How do we, as parents, cultivate in our children a love of the earth, a cry for justice, and a commitment to nonviolence? Where do we place our bodies so we teach our kids that resistance is crucial and change is possible? What practices do we hold as a family to encourage them to work with their hands, honor their hearts, and nurture their spirits?

The Sandbox Revolution calls upon our collective wisdom to wrestle with the questions, navigate the challenges, offer concrete practices, and remind parents of the sacredness of the work. Written by parents who are also writers, pastors, teachers, organizers, artists, gardeners, and activists, this anthology offers a diversity of voices and experiences on topics that include education, money, anti-racism, resistance, spirituality, disability justice, and earth care.

Contributors include Frida Berrigan, Leona Brown, Jennifer Castro, Laurel Dykstra, Janice Fialka, Kate Foran, Jennifer Harvey, Sarah and Nathan Holst, Michelle Martinez, Nick Peterson, Dee Dee Risher, en sawyer and Marcia Lee, Susan Taylor, Randy Woodley, and Bill Wylie-Kellermann.

March Madness and the Other America

By Tommy Airey

March Madness is back. The men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments caught the coronavirus last season right when my Kansas Jayhawks were ranked number one. That was before police murdered George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, before the NBA bubble almost burst after police shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back. This year, I couldn’t bring myself to fill out a bracket, but I have watched a lot of basketball. This year, more than ever, I have embraced the tension between sports and social analysis—a glorious tension released by a sabbath-jubilee Spirit soaked in a trifecta of Hebrew words: hesed (steadfast love), mispat (justice) and sedekah (faithfulness to the most vulnerable). My wife-partner Lindsay, a licensed marriage and family therapist, says that my devotion to the game is not about escaping the real world, but integrating it.  

This year, my mind is penetrating past Magic Johnson and pivoting towards Lyndon Baines Johnson, the last Democratic Presidential candidate to get a majority of the white vote. In 1967, in the wake of anti-racist uprisings in Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and Newark, LBJ commissioned a congressional investigation. He wanted to know what happened, why it happened and what could be done to prevent it from happening again. The so-called Kerner Commission released its findings seven months later, on the last day of February 1968. The scary thing is that the results of the investigation are still ruthlessly relevant today: Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.

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We Are Seeds

By Ric Hudgens

I am thinking about people who live their lives as if they were seed.

The Greek poet Dinos Christianopoulos (1931-2020) wrote in 1978: “what didn’t you do to bury me / but you forgot that I was a seed.” (translated by Nicholas Kostis).

Young Mexican activists started a movement using a similar phrase in 2013 after 43 students disappeared in Iguala, Mexico: “They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds.” (see the blog entry with the same title, An Xio, Hyperallergic, July 3, 2018).

Even Jesus of Nazareth had said something similar 2,000 years ago: “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24).

We often think in metaphors about human life and the living of our own lives. Kirstie Pursie offers seven that are common: climbing a mountain, taking a journey, tending a garden, building a house, a race, a battle, a prison. (Kirstie Pursie, “7 Metaphors for Life: Which One Better Describes You and What Does It Mean”, Learning Mind, March 20, 2019). All of these are illuminating. There is probably a metaphor (or several) hidden in your life.

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A Dual Project

An excerpt from a recent DemocracyNow interview with Mariam Kaba. #LentenAbolition

I always tell people that when we talk about prison-industrial complex abolition, we’re talking about a dual project. We’re talking about, on the one hand, a project that is about dismantling death-making institutions, like policing and prisons and surveillance, and creating life-affirming ones, putting resources and investing in the things we know do keep people safe — housing, healthcare, schooling, all kinds of other things, you know, living wages…

In terms of the people on the ground, I do want to point out — you had a conversation earlier with Congressman Jones about the George Floyd Justice Act. And I think if you talk to people who have been on the streets all last year, basically, half the year, and continue to be struggling now in their communities, they would tell you that that bill, which is really just a set of procedural reforms, is woefully, woefully insufficient. And I also keep thinking about the cruel irony of naming a bill after — a police reform, supposedly, bill, after someone who was killed by the police, and then to include a whole set of so-called procedural reforms that would not have prevented that person’s death. So, you know, this particular offering that they’re making, supposedly, in Congress wouldn’t have kept George Floyd alive. And I think that’s just cruel irony. And I really recommend that people take a look at Derecka Purnell’s yesterday great column that she wrote about this very issue.

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